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Pressure groups demand amendment of SOPs for coal mining licence

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SHILLONG, Nov 16: The five pressure groups on Wednesday alleged that the standard operating procedures (SOPs) for granting prospecting licences and mining lease for coal mining have been framed to suit the interest of the “high level”.

According to them, the SOPs also seek to violate the Meghalaya Land Transfer Act and to legalize benami transactions through coal business.

The five pressure groups – HYC, EJNC, HANM, JSM and CORP – have demanded immediate amendment of the Office Memorandum (OM) issued on March 5, 2021 with regards to the SOPs through a a memorandum submitted to the Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma and Deputy Chief Minister Prestone Tynsong here.

Addressing media persons, HYC President Robertjune Kharjahrin said, “The SOPs have been framed by the high level for the high level as it is no longer for the common man.”

“This government is highly influenced by the high level and those people with lots of money now want to monopolize this coal business in Meghalaya. We know that the coal business in Meghalaya is a livelihood not just for the middle class but also for the common man. With this kind of SOP, now only the big businessmen and big companies can apply for prospecting licences whereas the middle class and common man will no longer have any say on coal business,” he stated.

Kharjahrin said as per the OM issued by the Commissioner & Secretary to the Government of Meghalaya, Mining and Geology Department, in Chapter I, Clause D (Checklist), Para 6 of the SOPs, there is a clause where the land owner and the applicant only need to sign an Agreement for the purpose of applying for a prospecting licence/mining lease.

“We are of the opinion that this Clause should be amended so as to allow only tribals to make an Agreement between themselves and no non-tribal should be allowed to enter into an Agreement for Coal Mining with the tribal land owner for applying licence, which we feel is in line with the customary land tenure system in the State and also in line with the Meghalaya Transfer of Land Regulation Act,” he said adding “Further, this clause will lead to legalisation of Benami activities in coal mining sector as it provides a space for people to practice benami activities. Hence, it needs to be amended as suggested above.”

Also opposing a clause which stated that application for a prospective Licence shall be for an area of not less than 100 hectares, Kharjahrin said this is totally unacceptable as only very few tribal land owners who will have possession/ownership over of so much area of land and thus other land owners who have less area of land will be deprived of earning livelihood through coal mining.

“This Clause will further allow/encourage the big companies and bigwigs to acquire a huge chunk of land and further monopolise the Coal business and whereas small miners will not be in a position to take part in this mining business of coal. This will further create wealth disparity or imbalance distribution of wealth which will affect the inclusive growth of our people,” he said.

“Further, we are of the opinion that this Clause is unrealistic in the sense that keeping in mind the geographical nature of our Hills and also the fact that there is multi-layer ownership of land and to be able to get the required area of more than 100 hectares, is next to impossible,” he added.

The HYC leader said that as per Rule 22D of the Mineral Concession Rules, 1960 (as amended) issued by the Controller General, Indian Bureau of Mines, Nagpur, it is specified that the minimum area for grant of mining Lease in respect of minerals shall be of not less than Four hectares.

“Then on what basis the State Government came up with the above-stated SOPs to provide that for granting of Mining Lease in respect of Coal, minimum requirement of Land is not less than 100 hectares,” he questioned.

He said therefore, the government is demanded to amend the SOPs to suit the local situation and “we suggest that perhaps mining lease may be granted to a smaller area than what is notified”.

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